Monday, 2 June 2014

Eating dairy and gluten free at Walt Disney World, Florida

Well this post isn't about the experience of the dairy free 'baby' and me, this time. 

Those of you who have been following our recent experiences of travelling to Disneyland Paris could be forgiven for thinking I have a 'downer' on all things Disney. So, to redress the balance a little, before I continue to relate more about our trip, I've asked the lovely Nicola (@N1C79_EATS on Twitter) to share her experiences of travelling to the Walt Disney Land in the States. 

Like me, Nicola is dairy and gluten free and I've heard so much from her, via Twitter, about the great times that she had there, that I thought it would be good for you to hear it too - it's quite interesting to see the differences between Disney in Paris and Florida!

Very kindly, Nicola agreed! And I really appreciate her sharing this, because it takes a lot of work to put a post together.

So, over to Nicola:

I find the USA (Orlando in this instance) caters a lot better for food allergies than the UK. A lot more information is available and procedures in place. This being the case it was our 3rd year going back to Orlando for our annual holiday. Not only is it a fantastic place with lots to see and do but there's also a vast amount of alternative foods and restaurants that cater for different diets without any awkwardness making your holiday more relaxing.

We choose to stay in a villa as we like our own space but it also enables us to eat breakfast before a day out and any other meals when we don't fancy driving to restaurant. Not only that I absolutely love going round the supermarkets and discovering all the American Free From goodies.

The three main stores we visit are Walmart, Publix and Wholefoods. Walmart and Publix are both minutes from our villa so we always do our first shop at one of those to stock up on essentials. Both have a decent selection of Free From foods on shelves and in freezers. Publix have a slightly bigger selection and also more options in the freezer department inc lots of different dairy free ice-creams. My all time favourite is Wholefoods, yes its a bit more expensive but their selection is overwhelming. I could spend hours in there. When you've spent a year looking at different american goodies on the internet and they are finally on the shelf in front of you its very exciting. I always bring a suitcase back full of my favourites.

My favourite snacks to have in the villa were - Daiya Pizza, Vans Waffles, Piping Gourmet Whoopie Pies, Rice Dream Bites, Earth Balance "Cheese" Puffs, Amy's Pizza and Enjoy Life Cookies. The list could go on but I enjoyed all of those this visit.

Fave Snacks

Disney do food allergies the best. Even if you are not staying at a Disney Hotel you can still book a meal at one of their restaurants (and have a nosy round the resort). When booking you can specify any food allergies which will be printed on your booking when you check in and stamped "Allergy". Your server will seat you and then the chef will visit you at your table to go through your options. In a sit down restaurant this is standard practice. At any Disney quick service locations it is best to tell a server or cashier that you have allergies and they will in turn call for the chef. This also applies within any of the parks. My favourite place to visit is the Grand Floridian Cafe for a breakfast of allergy friendly Mickey Waffles. Amazing! A new discovery this year was the allergy friendly Beignets at the Port Orleans resort which were delicious. As a special treat we booked in at the Victoria & Albert restaurant for our final meal. Only in Disney could I have been served the most delicious 7 course meal, free from everything I couldn't eat. It was the best meal I have ever eaten. They even gave us a Babycakes Lemon & Poppy seed cake to take away as a present. Fantastic.

The Seven Course Meal

Eating at the Disney parks is also pretty easy. If you contact the Special Diets department before your trip they will notify you of the most appropriate locations to eat. This year we only visited Animal Kingdom and Epcot and I found it easy to eat at both. The Animal Kingdom has a Special Diets "Garden Kiosk" within the park which not only has information of places to eat in the park but it also sells Allergy Free snacks. Since Babycakes has closed in Downtown Disney you can also buy their yummy Donuts and Cupcakes from this kisok too. Their cinnamon sugar donut was scrummy.

As for the other parks. Discovery Cove is fantastic, a bit similar process to Disney, I mentioned food allergies to the server and the chef came out to advise me. They also stock Gluten Free "To Go" packs which contain various snacks that are free of the top 8 allergens. These were available at the beach huts too on request. Seaworld and Busch Gardens also stock the "To Go" packs. At Busch Gardens the best place to eat is the "Crown Colony House". We ate in the sit down restaurant. On arrival they have Allergy cards that can be filled in with your information and passed onto the server/chef. This worked very well and I thought was a good idea. Something a lot more restaurants could do. I've never eaten properly at the Universal parks. I've read they do cater for allergies but not quite to the level that Disney do. I normally settle for a fruit cup and lentil chips until we come across somewhere I know I'm safe. A lot of these parks have Dippin Dot Stands (frozen ice cream balls), I love the Rainbow Ice Dippin Dots as they are just flavoured ice and great to cool you down.

Downtown Disney is a nice area with lots of restaurants to visit. My favorite fast became Raglan Road/Cookes of Dublin. If you want dairy free/gluten free/egg free fried food this is the place to visit. We went back three times as I was addicted to their deep fried Scallops. To die for. They also do gluten free Fish & Chips and Shrimps. The Fish & Chips were very good too. I also had a very nice meal at Splitsville. They have a menu marked with all gluten free options of which a number are also dairy free too. The Fiesta Chicken bowl was super tasty.

The Scallops

Outside the parks/attractions my favourite fast food spot is Chick-Fil-A where I can get dairy free/gluten free/egg free grilled chicken nuggets & waffle fries. We also really like Outback Steakhouse which now has a gluten free menu, the server was very helpful with substitutions to make it dairy free too. I'd researched a lot of other restaurants in Orlando but didn't get the chance to visit them. I did find that a lot now have gluten free menus so are quite likely to cater for other allergies too.

My advice when traveling to America would be to do lots of research before you go. Check out menus on websites and email them for information. Being prepared removes some of the stress when you are there. We like to have some meals booked so we know where we are going to eat, but it's also nice to just eat when and where you want, or even back at the villa. Some Disney restaurants are booked months and months in advance, so don't leave it until the last minute. Parks do allow small snacks for allergies to be taken in your bag so pack a few bits just in case. Relax and have fun!

Any questions just give me a shout on Twitter! 

Wow! Didn't that food look and sound A-MAZ-ING?? It's got me salivating! And what a difference compared to our experiences in Disneyland Paris!

Those of you who would like to know more might be interested to know that Nicola will soon be blogging on this herself, so do watch out for her future posts! And a HUGE 'Thank you' goes out to Nicola for sharing this with us! xx

Further Reading:

How to Visit Walt Disney World with Food Allergies

Related Posts:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing my American food experience :) xx